Design Thinking 101: Everything you need to know

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Design Thinking 101: Everything you need to know

Design Thinking 101: Everything you need to know
why innovation!
12 min
01 Apr. 2021

Design Thinking is as much a way of working as it is a way of thinking. It is a creative and iterative approach to problem-solving. Being highly user-centric, this methodology focuses on understanding a user's needs and creating solutions to meet those needs.

Design Thinking Mindset

Having a "Design Thinking Mindset" empowers innovation and facilitates creating the right solutions for the right problems.

Design Thinking is about:

• Curiosity - Being curious and looking at things from a different perspective.

• Empathy - Understanding the issues faced by the users by putting oneself in their shoes.

• Collaboration - Practising collaboration between team members and stakeholders involved in each project.

• Logic - Bringing logic to the creative process. It must be understood that being creative does not mean being unstructured.

• Intuition - Listening to one's intuition because, at times, as pragmatic as we are, there are instances where our instinct or intuition is telling us something that may be more valuable.

• Humility - Never make assumptions about the user or the intended market for the product. Be humble and approach the process step-by-step.

• Imagination - Be creative and imagine what is possible in the future.

• Reframe - Continuously reframe the problem and solution to not miss out on anything and ensure that everything is in the right direction.

Design Thinking methodology involves FOUR distinct stages – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Collectively, this is known as the 4D Framework.

4D Framework

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01. Discovery is primary on the list

The discovery stage is about connecting with the user. Being human-centric remains an integral element of every digital innovation. For example, during the discovery stage, which can be conducted in an interview setting, we gain a better understanding of what the user pain points and needs are.

Discovery is also about understanding the market, competition, and other valuable data necessary to create the right product that addresses the right problem.

02. The next step is to Define

This next stage is where the process of identifying the right problems and prioritising them takes place. There will be a host of identified problems, so the key is to recognise the one which offers the most value for the user by being solved.

Data analysis is instrumental here. Firms can utilise Abstraction laddering to expand or narrow down product-related matters. The Bull's eye diagramming can also be used to understand emerging issues, while the Problem tree analysis can be tapped to tackle the hierarchy of things.

03. Development is the third step to be accomplished

The development or ideation stage is where all hands are required on deck to come up with as many potential solutions.

Brainstorming is probably the most common process to date since it allows individuals to get their imaginative or artistic side flowing. Another technique to squeeze out that cognitive approach is Sketching, which taps into visualisation to express ideas during rapid sessions.

Another method in getting everyone up and thinking is the Round-robin approach. It allows group members to develop a thought further until the idea becomes bigger and substantial. Instituting ideas and concept posters are also a vital collaborative effort to solve customer needs.

04. The final step is Delivery

A divergence takes place where the aptest solution is agreed on. Once this is decided, the building of the prototypes begins. Prototypes can be in many forms, such as Wireframing schematics. The intent is to make it easy for the user to understand its purpose, among others.

With prototypes or solutions in place, the process then moves on to the testing stage, where feedback is gathered from users. This helps in identifying the specific solution that eliminates concerns and pain points. The Design Thinking approach has been adopted by many reputable and large organisations, helping them create innovative products and solutions that are human-centric and customer-focused.

[Case Study] Bank Of America: Keep The Change

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In the early 2000s, one of the United States' premier banks executed an initiative that made a valuable impact on its clients' lives. To create a small but exceptional thing out of the ordinary, Bank of America instituted a fruitful savings scheme called Keep The Change.

This type of program was common among banks and other related financial institutions then. Only this time, Bank of America made a spinoff that benefited the pockets of their customers and provided nuggets of wisdom in financial literacy.

The idea was to create a buffer in monetary transactions. Even up to this day, transaction balances in banks usually end in decimals (e.g., $200.22). Such amounts were unfortunately treated as pittance on most occasions due to their low worth. Bank of America unravelled an interesting approach which improved how customers received their change. Instead of handing out the small amounts during transactions, the concept was to leave these spare changes on the account.

A $2 change, for example, will be left in the account instead of giving those couple of dollars to the client. The platform really is to roundup sums. Over time, leaving the change will add up and see the customer's total savings grow.

Practical edge

Bank of America even encouraged its clients to join the scheme as the bank launched an incentive to match the amount left on the savings. Roughly 60 percent of the company's customers joined the program, which earned around USD2 billion.

The financial rewards were something to celebrate, but the underlying concept behind the idea instilled a sense of discipline among clients since any sum left on the account is money that will soon reap some value over time, no matter how small the amount.

The idea may seem familiar and simple, but the platform is practical. It allows individuals to include a straightforward and uncomplicated initiative into their routines and gain benefits without overthinking about it.

Financial struggles will, unfortunately, always be a major societal woe. Living paycheck to paycheck is a grim reality, and during COVID, in America, that number has increased to 63 percent. In those cases, the littlest of things can create a sizable difference. With a simple yet effective program, Bank of America made that difference happen for many.

[Case Study] General Electric Healthcare: MRI

< Design Thinking 101: Everything you need to know | why innovation!, Your trusted parted in agility and innovation journey

General Electric Healthcare's healthcare sector has also established a thoughtful platform that made the hospital's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner more appealing to paediatric patients who dread using the equipment.

Doug Dietz, a technological tool designer and developer at GE Healthcare, found out the hard way that a lot of children get scared and anxious about the MRI machine. The main factor that kept the MRI appointments going is the utilisation of sedation – around 80 percent of children aged 3 to 8 were placed under anaesthesia to complete the procedure.

Human perception

The original appearance of the MRI machine, while ignorable by adults, was scary for children. The entire thing, with equipment filled with warning stickers, black and yellow tapes placed all over, and the overall sterile and clinical presentation of the room made it feel like a crash site or worse. From a storytelling perspective (and since children's imagination are typically more rampant and unfiltered than adults), this created an unwelcoming and intimidating environment for kids undergoing a serious medical procedure. The entire process was absent any sense of comfort.

This experience became a revelation for Dietz. It summoned both his courage and creativity to build a cover design for the MRI to be more appealing and relaxing for young individuals. The design extended to the interior design (from wall to ceiling) of the MRI room. The patient's time in the MRI machine became akin to a story or adventure, complete with exciting themes from sailing in a pirate ship to space travels and a yellow submarine that the child can pretend they're on. This also weaved the loud scanning sound into the adventure stories, helping to compartmentalise the situation with the child's imagination with a healthy helping of creative design.

As a result, the number of young patients requested to be put under was reduced significantly, and patient satisfaction rose to 90 percent.

It's also important to recognise that through Design Thinking, the right solution for the right problem wasn't to spend millions on developing a soundless or less scary MRI machine. It was essentially interior design that saved the day. But that might not have been an identified solution if Design Thinking, its steps and tenets weren't utilised.

Design thinking pillars: Technology, business and user

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From the above case study, the key takeaway is that Design Thinking starts with the user. The other pillars, like technology and business, are parameters to evaluate and prioritise.

For the methodologies to be effective, four factors must be done:

01. Collaborative convergence

Team members need to focus on what must be done. Protocols and decisions should be affirmed. It is necessary to consider advice and working experiences over seniority or ranking.

02. Toolkit

During the development of the product, Toolkit should be used. Data must be classified and processed as empathy or story maps, interviews, or personas to get a full grasp of the reference group's pain points.

03. Vision Board

A Vision board will come in handy, especially where ingenuity is concerned. Instituting a product box will likely clarify what clients want. This can be probably done through a creativity matrix where ideas are driven to address people's current problems.

04. Business Model

Having a business model will keep the entire process in perspective. Given the sometimes chaotic nature of collaborating and implementing concepts for certain products, the process of commercialising an application will be subjected to discussion to establish and heighten its value.

Design Thinking Addresses Predicaments

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In the 1970s, design theorist Horst Rittel coined the term "wicked problem". This refers to problems that are tricky and highly ambiguous where there is no definitive solution. The process of solving problems as such is ongoing and requires Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is not about assuming what a user wants, but it's about stepping into their shoes and building empathy. This approach enables an organisation to locate their user's pain points and gather real insights. With this knowledge, the right solution can be created for the right problem.

It also requires a collaborative effort. According to internationally known CEO, IDEO's Tim Brown, design thinking presents a collaborative process that complements the industry needs. Problems will soon find matching resolutions due to a shared desire of making firms profitable. A couple of significant factors reinforces this:

01. Divergence and convergence become central to the methods employed by design thinking

To find creative, practical and impactful solutions, keeping an open mind is necessary. The exploration of ideas and concepts will pave the way towards an influx of possibilities. People must detach themselves from conventional methods. They should extend and expand their approaches to come up with valuable and flexible answers. People cannot simply gather and discuss within the confines of their comfort zones. It is about exploration, breadth, quantity and unconstrained scope. It is also about deviating from an existing platform to bring an exceptional and new concept.

02. Empathy allows people to come up with ideas

By understanding what others have experienced, individuals can provide solutions to address issues or concerns. Empathy may be a trait and can be hard to inculcate in an individual, but it is core to the process. Teams and organisations have to be willing and able to put themselves in their customers' shoes to create true value.

When Design Thinking meets Agile

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Combining Design Thinking and Agile results in end-to-end customer-centric product development, which aims to create the right product. The benefits of Design Thinking and Agile fills in gaps or drawbacks that each may have on its own. In Agile, these drawbacks include:

• The chances that a right product is developed for the wrong problem

• Over-reliance on the product owner's understanding and vision

• Might not involve direct users and may result in getting the wrong feedback

Design Thinking fills in the gaps or drawbacks by defining the right problems that need solving. It also helps to build a collective and holistic understanding of the task at hand so that at the product development stage, this knowledge is leveraged to build the right products or solutions.

Additionally, Design Thinking involves the user from the design to the testing stage.

Agile also helps to fill in the gaps of Design Thinking. It helps to structure the product development process, which helps to deliver the product in the right way. In Design Thinking, the process usually stops at the prototype and testing stage but applying Agile, this extends to delivering the final actual product. Agile also enforces continuous, iterative and incremental improvements in the product and in the way teams work.

The process involved should be seamless; a continuous loop involving the same team from start to end reduces the likelihood of losing perspective or having an unknown ingredient interrupt the process.

Design Thinking helps to identify the right problem and design the right solution while Agile helps in building the solution right with continuous end-to-end feedback from the users. 

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